Rowers receive much-needed competition at home

Brett Angel

Minnesota’s varsity rowing team began the fall season by finishing first in its division at the Head of the Mississippi regatta Saturday at Riverflats Park.

The Gophers won the Open Women’s Eight competition despite dividing their top athletes into two eight-person boats.

Minnesota’s “B” boat covered the 4-km course in 13 minutes, 31 seconds to place first, while the team’s “A” boat finished 12 seconds behind in third. The Minneapolis Rowing Club was second.

Minnesota wasn’t as concerned with how they placed as they were with getting a feel for racing again. It was the first time since last spring the team has rowed in competition together.

“We were just trying to compete against one another,” said senior captain Jill Peters, who was part of the Gophers’ winning “B” boat. “We had a good rhythm to our boat, and if you have a good rhythm it doesn’t even feel like you’re working that hard.”

The Head of the Mississippi is unique because all boats in all divisions race each other at the same time.

There is a staggered start, where boats crossing the finish line first are not necessarily the winners. Results are based solely on time and are not revealed until every boat has finished.

Most regattas have separate races for different boat categories starting in 10-minute increments.

“We were just happy to get some competition,” Gophers head coach Wendy Davis said of the race. “From now on we’ll start putting out a first boat and a second boat (the rest of the season).”

More than anything, the team viewed the competition as good preparation for bigger regattas later this fall.

The Gophers will compete at the Head of the Rock next Sunday in Rockford, Ill., before traveling to Boston for the prestigious Head of the Charles.

Peters said she was encouraged that the team finished as well as it did this early in the year.

“Knowing that we were this strong and we can combine different people in the boat to get even stronger,” Peters said. “It’s exciting to think where we’re going to be the rest of the season.”

Saturday was the first time the University organized and hosted this event, known previously as the Twin Cities All-Comers Regatta.

The Gophers also finished one, two, and three in the novice competition.